Friday, May 9, 2014

Unexpected Epiphanies

My family has been sick this week.

Not with anything major- just with a nasty cold that has been going around.

I got it first- not unusual given my immune-system deficiencies. I started to feel pretty miserable on Thursday, and by Friday I was in full-blown "you should probably isolate me for the good of humanity" mode.

Of course, that didn't stop me from packing my family into a car and driving us out (in a beautiful May blizzard no less) to Calgary for Thomas the train.

When I'm sick, I go into a strange sort of hyper mode. Hyper reactive. Hyper sensitive. And, oddly enough, hyper productive. I get a ridiculous amount of stuff done when feeling at my absolute worst.

I used to think that this was a reflection of my need for normalcy. Or of my frustration at not being able to be efficient enough.

And I've never lent it much more thought than that.

This week, Jason got sick too. We very rarely get sick at the same time (thank goodness!) and he rarely gets sick in general. So when he does get hit, it's usually with sudden and ferocious impact.

He needed to lie in bed for three days straight.

But he only did that for one.


Well, Jason might be the best husband on the planet. Or at the very least, one of the best.

And when his wife goes into hyper productive mode, he knows that it means he has to kick his game up a notch too.

So where most men would have been 'man-colding- it up, Jason was right beside me, wiping down toys with bleach wipes and sorting them into piles to be donated.

He spent countless hours sorting through laundry and making sure that all the kids' clothes actually still fit them.

He sat down and worked through an updated version of our budget, and helped me format all my fancy new spreadsheets.

We got a lot of work done over the past few days- and I guiltily admit that he is the worse for the wear. :(

I know...I'm a bad wife.

As I was sitting there, watching him work- sweat streaming down his forehead and matting his unwashed hair to fevered brow- I couldn't help but ask myself...

"What the hell is wrong with me?"

I mean, really? We're sick. Why do I pick this particular time to clean up the entire house? I've pushed these projects off for months- and this week, of all weeks, I decide to tackle them all?

It doesn't make sense.

And then something inside me clicked.

I always do this.

Seriously. I always do this.

Whether I'm sick with a cold, or recovering from a c-section, I somehow always find a way to go into productive mode. I do things that absolutely don't make any sense, taking on WAY more than I should. And I feel totally miserable doing it- but, for some reason I can't help it.

It's not a martyrdom thing. My brain knows that I should take it easy. It knows that I should rest. But my body can't follow what my brain is trying to tell it.

And then I remembered that time Sam got *really* sick.

It was the first time he'd been sick in years. He is almost always as healthy as can be- almost bizarrely so.

But this time, I knew he was *really* sick...because he did something that he hadn't done in years, and hasn't done since.

He made a line.

A perfectly straight, organized, and oddly stereotypically "Autistic" line.

But, Autistic or not, making lines isn't his thing. It's not what he does.

Sure he lines up trains- but random objects around the house? Never.

So that clued me in that something was wrong. Really wrong.

Sam hasn't been as sick as he was that week since I wrote that blog post. But he has been sick. And when he's sick, I've noticed that- without fail- some of his Autism "symptoms" seem to become more pronounced.

His sensory issues are heightened and he reacts more strongly to light, taste, touch, and smell.

His obsessiveness (usually only a mild trait) because increasingly present, making him cling to objects and routines in ways that he usually does not.

His stimming becomes more frequent and more pronounced, particularly in terms of his circles and hums.

When he is sick, his body seems to try to find every single way in the world of forcing him back into a state of control and of regulation.

It's almost like a self-defense mechanism.

And I've got it too.

Sam and I share a lot of traits. Yes, I know that he is mostly a mini-Jason, but when it comes to his quirks (aside from being generally non-speaking), he gets them from me.

I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and have strong indications of a sensory processing disorder.

I have repetitive behaviours that make me feel more sane. They are mostly mundane, like biting my finger nails, cracking my knuckles, or fidgeting/hyperfocusing on objects (my phone being my most recent go-to, but before that, I was a pen-clicker).

And when I am sick, my body seems to kick these traits into overdrive.

It's not that I *want* to clean, or organize, or hyper-obsess on paperwork, or any of the other crazy traits that I take on when I'm under the weather or in pain.

I just don't have a choice.

My brain says no, but my body says "NOW".

And it occurs to me that disinfecting toys is just my own personal version of a line of perfectly organized toys.

My body, desperately trying to find a way to organize the chaos that it is feeling inside.

And I realize, upon further reflection, that I don't only do this when I am sick. I do it during any time of extraordinary stress.

Christmas dinner has to be just so.

The house has to be immaculate before a meeting with our case worker.

The kitchen needs to be fully re-painted, 24 hours before my estranged in-laws came to see us for the first time.

My bedroom was never cleaner than during finals.

When my mind is stressed, my body needs to busy itself in order to create a feeling of control and of normalcy.

This may strike most of you as a particularly meaningful realization, but for me it's kind of earth shattering.

I have spent my whole life wondering why I did these kind of things.

I've gotten into fights with my family and friends over 'taking on too much' when I am sick or overwhelmed.

I've been teased and taunted for my almost surhuman pain tolerance (it's not really tolerance; it still hurts like a bitch. But I rarely let pain slow me down, and was up and doing housework within 36 hours of Charlie's surgical birth).

I've been told that I'm just a sucker for punishment; that I need to invent some sort of drama all the time.

The truth is much more simple.

I'm a lot like Sam.

And while most people crave comfort when they are sick, I crave normalcy.

I crave order in disorder.

It's how I keep my brain from getting sick when my body fails it.

And it makes absolute and complete sense to me now.

So next time my crazy kiddo makes a line, I'm going to smile to myself and think:

"Like Mama, like son."

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